As I sat in the Mash bus driving down the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, the blues and greens of British Columbia were replaced in my bus window by the ochre earth, purple mountain scapes and grey bush of Kenya. The colours were less vibrant but the familiarity of home made them no less vivid.
The smooth rhythm of the diesel bus, broken only by lulls when it was stuck behind a trailer and positioned itself to overtake, hypnotised me into a half awake-half asleep state. I had always found it easy to sleep in the car – it was a habit I had cultivated years ago as a child when the only cure for intense car sickness was mental control over the feeling. I would evoke a false sense of drowsiness to control the nausea and it always worked. But as the stomach churn and taste of bile in my mouth faded, the pretend drowsiness would inevitably turn real and take over.
And so it was from my half awake state that I saw the still landscape turn into a live one as a herd of zebras clustered close to the edge of the highway, stomping out a red cloud of dust. And a few miles later, the graceful long-necked heads of two giraffes silhouetted side by side a line of thorn trees. But the most precious glimpse was of a line of elephants standing silently in the prickly grey bush. Guardians of a wealth of memories that were being viciously erased from national consciousness.
Miles later, perched on top of Lion Hill in Voi, the carpeted red earth that was typical of the region spread out below me. I was too high up to see any nyama, but that didn’t stop me enjoying second hand sightings through the orange-striped tour vans that meandered along the trails and stopped sporadically when they had spotted something.
Or from enjoying the antics of the rock hyraxes just beyond the electric fence as they basked in the afternoon sun, and precariously climbed branches of the thorn bush to nibble on freshly sprouted green leaves, bending them to the ground with their tubby weight.